March 30 (Reuters) - Australian shares were up for a third straight session on Thursday helped by basic materials and energy stocks which benefited from higher commodity and oil prices.
The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.4 percent, or 24.58 points, to 5,898.1 by 0106 GMT.
The S&P/ASX 200 Aussie benchmark ended nearly 1 percent higher in the previous session, recording its best closing performance in close to two years.
“We’re up 15 points. Certainly continuation of this move is underway. On the back of two very strong days I expect it’ll close towards year highs again today,” said IG Markets’ market analyst Gary Burton, speaking earlier in the session.
Investors also digested comments from Federal Reserve officials, with Boston Fed President Eric Rosengren saying the Fed should raise rates three more times in 2017 and his Chicago peer Charles Evans saying he favours further interest rate hikes.
Miners posted the biggest gains on the benchmark led by Fortescue Metals Group, which rose 2 percent as steel and iron ore futures in China jumped more than 3 percent on Wednesday.
Base metal prices were also upbeat. Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton rose about 1.3 percent each. BHP, which also has significant oil and gas interests, benefited from an overnight rise in oil prices.
The energy index cashed in on higher oil, rising 1 percent. Oil and gas major Woodside Petroleum and smaller rival Beach Energy, rose 1.4 percent and 5 percent respectively.
Financials maintained their momentum, rising 0.3 percent. Three of the “Big Four” banks rose in a range of 0.2 percent to 0.5 percent. ANZ shares, however, were flat.
“Banks have moved a little higher on margin expansion. They’ve lifted their investment lending rates by 12 – 15 basis points at a time when the Reserve Bank is a little hamstrung in raising interest rates at all,” Burton added.
New Zealand’s benchmark index rose for a third session, up 0.3 percent, or 20.82 points, to 7154.39.
Consumer and healthcare stocks led the gains with Skycity Entertainment 1.5 percent higher, and Fisher & Paykel Healthcare Corp up 0.8 percent.
On the other hand, utilities posted minor losses with Meridian Energy and Contact Energy slipping 1.1 percent and 0.6 percent respectively.
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Reporting by Rushil Dutta; Additional reporting by Susan Mathew in Bengaluru